Ex-coach says Mich. school district fired him over religion
Editor’s note: In October 2010, the Associated Press reported that Gerald Marszalek had settled his lawsuit against Dearborn Public Schools for $24,500. He also received $500 in exchange for waiving any claim of age discrimination. Dearborn schools admitted no liability. The news service obtained the details of the June settlement under the Freedom of Information Act.
DETROIT — A hall-of-fame wrestling coach filed a federal lawsuit yesterday accusing a suburban Detroit school district and its principal of firing him because of his Christian beliefs.
Gerald Marszalek, 64, said his troubles began in 2005 when a volunteer assistant coach, who is also a Protestant minister, lost his job after introducing Muslim students to Christianity. The discussions between the Rev. Trey Hancock and the students took place during a private, off-campus wrestling camp for Fordson High School's team.
Marszalek said he was ordered by Principal Imad Fadlallah to keep Hancock away from the Dearborn school. Marszalek’s lawsuit said that was impossible: The minister's son was a star wrestler at the school.
Marszalek, who also is Christian, said his contract wasn't renewed in 2008 because of his religious beliefs and his association with Hancock. Dearborn has a large Muslim population, and Fadlallah is described in the lawsuit as a devout Muslim.
Marszalek's attorney, Brandon Bolling, said his client coached at the school for 35 years and wanted his job back.
“He was going to complete one last season to try to get to 500 wins,” Bolling said.
Marszalek, a member of the Michigan Wrestling Association's hall of fame, declined comment yesterday.
Dearborn Public Schools also declined to comment. John Artis, who was superintendent until last summer, said Marszalek was an at-will employee who reported to the Fordson principal. He said discrimination on the basis of religion had no role in the dismissal.
“There were a number of things tied into that. … A tough decision had to be made,” Artis said.
In October 2005, Fadlallah ordered Hancock to stop volunteering with Fordson athletics. He accused the minister of using his ties to the school to illegally promote religion, according to the lawsuit.
“I would like to keep this matter under strict confidentiality,” the principal wrote to Hancock shortly after the camp. “If this issue is leaked to the community, I cannot stop the adverse reaction that it will cause.”
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Detroit, seeks financial compensation, including lost wages.